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Courts

KBIC says warrants against members threaten Tribe's sovereignty

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BARAGA, MI--   The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has filed a civil complaint in federal court against the State of Michigan for its seizure of tobacco products and application of sales tax on the Tribe. 

In a release issued Tuesday, KBIC President Warren Swartz said the Michigan Attorney General’s Office issued criminal warrants for two of the Tribe’s members and former employees on October 20.  The warrants were for felony violations of the Michigan Tobacco Products Tax Act, based on the seizure of tobacco products, a pickup truck, and a trailer in December of 2015. 

Swartz says the employees were transporting cigarettes made in Indian Country, intended for sale in Indian Country.  He says the seizure was made within the ceded home territory of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. 

Swartz says because the state is threatening incarceration against the KBIC and its employees for the exercise of its sovereignty, the Tribe will—for now—sell tobacco that bears a Michigan tax stamp. 

He notes the Tribe is preparing to manufacture and sell its own cigarettes on the L’Anse Reservation and on KBIC’s trust lands.